The calls that decided Hamilton and Verstappen's Bahrain battle
Fastest in every session, all signs pointed towards Red Bull and Max Verstappen starting the 2021 F1 season with a victory. That it didn't pan out that way, and Lewis Hamilton scored a surprising win, owes much to an aggressive Mercedes strategy and a pre-race tyre selection that Verstappen would later question
Given the astounding levels of success Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes have achieved in the past seven Formula 1 seasons, it's somewhat surprising that their latest Bahrain Grand Prix victory – and Hamilton's 96th F1 win – was something of an underdog tale.
Mercedes had ended pre-season testing seemingly well adrift of Red Bull on pure pace and with poor car balance. When the teams arrived back in Bahrain for the 2021 race, they knew most of the obscured elements from the testing picture would finally be revealed. And Max Verstappen's near 0.4-second pole margin over Hamilton confirmed that Red Bull was indeed the team to beat.
Three points finishes from as many starts represents a decent opening innings on paper, but Daniel Ricciardo has endured a tough start to his McLaren career - only magnified his teammate's excellent form. Yet both he and the team have good reason to expect a turnaround soon.
OPINION: Going up against the dominant force of Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton was always going to demand the best from Red Bull and Max Verstappen. But after making a couple more errors during the Portuguese Grand Prix, the Dutch driver showed there's a small gap he still needs to close in the 2021 Formula 1 title fight.
Red Bull's Portuguese Grand Prix fortunes were decidedly second best to Mercedes', but the result skews the potential that the team had at Portimao. With a new set of updates, the team looks good going forward into the rest of 2021's spicy F1 competition
Just as he did in 2020, Lewis Hamilton had to come from behind to win the 2021 Portuguese Grand Prix. Only this time there were two rivals he had to pass, among the several challenges he had to overcome, on his way to securing a 97th grand prix victory
Lewis Hamilton topped the crucial FP2 session on Friday as F1 returned to Portugal, but his Mercedes team cannot be sure it has the edge on its Red Bull rivals. As cool temperatures and wind combine with the still-slippery surface to present drivers with quandaries over set-up and tyre warmup, there's still everything to play for come qualifying.
As a highly-rated Mercedes junior, George Russell is naturally billed as Lewis Hamilton's heir apparent where Britain's next Formula 1 champion is concerned. But he may face competition for that accolade from Lando Norris, fresh from a confidence-boosting run to third at Imola whose rise is being accelerated by his McLaren team’s revival
The news this week that F1 has green-lit 'sprint qualifying' races that will determine the grid for three grands prix in 2021 was met with a blend of excitement and scepticism. But before those in both camps can be vilified, F1 must first work out what its criteria is for success - and what will justify making them a more permanent fixture
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Mercedes has "no strengths" over Red Bull in F1 2021